26 February 2010

JGSLA 2010: 'Priest's Grotto,' July 12

Many special interest groups hold luncheons during the annual conference, set for July 11-16, in Los Angeles.

Announcements are beginning to come through, such as Gesher Galicia's program for this event, which will take place Monday, July 12.

Christos Nicola will speak on "The Secret of Priest's Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story."

In 1942, as the Nazis intensified their hold on Eastern Europe several Galician Jewish families disappeared into the vast underground labyrinths of western Ukraine. The group ranged from grandmothers to toddlers and for the next 18 months, they lived, worked, ate and slept in caves under the feet of the Nazis.

One of history's most remarkable survival epics, it was almost forgotten until an American caver found the remnants of the underground hideout and set out to find the survivors of Priest's Grotto.

Hear the story from caver Christos Nicola as he presents the story, which combines natural history, family history and genealogical research come together.

In 2003, while exploring a remote cluster of caves near Korolowka, a team of experienced cavers and adventurers, including Nicola, unexpectedly uncovered artifacts indicating that the caves had once been inhabited.

Following the clues, they discovered an astonishing and poignant story of Jews who endured a perilous life and survived to tell the story.

Nicola located six survivors, most from the extended Stermer family. It turned out to be an more extensive story, covering two cave sites and nearly two years underground.

"There may not be another story like this," explains Michlean Amir, USHMM reference archivist. "Such a large group of people avoided digging their own graves or being shipped off to concentration camps by successfully utilizing a natural phenomenon."

Nicola has devoted more than 30 years to the study and exploration of caves in the FSU, Caribbean, Europe, and the Americas. He is founder of the Ukrainian American Youth Caver Exchange Foundation - a student exchange program dedicated to fostering the exchange of information between young cavers in America and Ukraine.

In addition to the luncheon presentation, Nicola will also be speaking during the conference about the July 2009 reunion trip of Korolowka survivors and his work with the Borschev (Borszczow), Ukraine Museum, along with a book sale and signing.

The luncheon requires an added fee. Only conference attendees may attend and you must be registered to add on this luncheon. Click here to add the event if you have already registered. Click here if you have not yet registered.

For all conference details, click here.

The complete conference program will be posted at the end of March or early April.

1 comment:

  1. Is this the same grotto that was written about in Outside Mag 2-3 years ago?